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Passport and geography on Uzbekistan

 

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  • Official Name: Republic of Uzbekistan
  •  Total Area: 447,400 square km
  •  Neighbor countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan
  •  Mountains: Tyan-Shan and Pamir-Alay ranges. The highest point is 4,643 m
  •  Deserts: Kizilkum and Karakum
  •  Rivers: Amudarya and Syrdarya
  •  Climate: Continental Lakes: Aral Sea, Sudoche, Aydarkul’
  •  Capital city: Tashkent
  •  Population: 24.6 million people (60% population are rural)
  •  Language: Uzbek is official language, Russian is widely used
  •  Religion: Islam
  •  Popular tourist destinations: Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Tashkent and towns of Ferghana valley 
Uzbekistan, officially the Republic of Uzbekistan, is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia, formerly part of the Soviet Union. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south. Once part of the Persian Samanid and later Timurid empires, the region was conquered in the early 16th century by Uzbek nomads, who spoke an Eastern Turkic language. Most of Uzbekistan’s population today belong to the Uzbek ethnic group and speak the Uzbek language, one of the family of Turkic languages. Uzbekistan was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the 19th century and in 1924 became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, known as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbek SSR). It has been an independent republic since December 1991.

Uzbekistan's economy relies mainly on commodity production, including cotton, gold, uranium, and natural gas. Despite the declared objective of transition to a market economy, Uzbekistan continues to maintain rigid economic controls, which often repel foreign investors. The policy of gradual, strictly controlled transition has nevertheless produced beneficial results in the form of economic recovery after 1995. Uzbekistan's domestic policies of human rights and individual freedoms are often criticized by international organizations.

Geography

Uzbekistan is approximately the size of Morocco and has an area of 447,400 square kilometers (172,700 sq mi). It is the 56th largest country in the world by area and the 42nd by population. Among the CIS countries, it is the 5th largest by area and the 3rd largest by population.
Uzbekistan stretches 1,425 kilometers (885 mi) from west to east and 930 kilometers (578 mi) from north to south. Bordering Kazakhstan and the Aral Sea to the north and northwest, Turkmenistan to the southwest, Tajikistan to the southeast, and Kyrgyzstan to the northeast, Uzbekistan is not only one of the larger Central Asian states but also the only Central Asian state to border all the other four. Uzbekistan also shares a short border (less than 150 km) with Afghanistan to the south.
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Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country; it is one of two double-landlocked countries in the world, i.e., a country completely surrounded by land-locked countries – the other being Liechtenstein. Less than 10% of its territory is intensively cultivated irrigated land in river valleys and oases. The rest is vast desert (Kyzyl Kum) and mountains. The highest point in Uzbekistan is 4,643 meters (15,233 ft), located in the southern part of the Gissar Range in Surkhandarya Province, on the border with Tajikistan, just north-west of Dushanbe (formerly called Peak of the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party, today apparently unnamed).
The climate in the Republic of Uzbekistan is continental, with little precipitation expected annually (100–200 millimeters, or 3.9–7.9 inches). The average summer temperature tends to be 40 C, while the average winter temperature is around 0 C.
Major cities include Bukhara, Samarqand, Namangan and the capital Tashkent.

Languages

The Uzbek language is the only official state language. The Tajik language is widespread in the cities of Bukhara and Samarqand because of their relatively large population of ethnic Tajiks. Russian is still an important language for interethnic communication, especially in the cities, including much day-to-day technical, scientific, governmental and business use. Russian is the main language of over 14% of the population and is spoken as a second language by many more. The use of Russian in remote rural areas has always been limited, and today school children have no proficiency in Russian even in urban centers.

In 1992 Uzbekistan officially shifted back to Latin script from traditional considerations of consistency with Turkey, but many signs and notices (including official government boards in the streets) are still written in Uzbek Cyrillic script that had been used in Uzbek SSR since 1940. Computers as a rule operate using the "Uzbek Cyrillic" keyboard, and Latin script is reportedly composed using the standard English keyboard.

Communications

According to the official source report, as of 10 March 2008, the number of cellular phone users in Uzbekistan reached 7 million, up from 3.7 million on 1 July 2007. The largest mobile operator in terms of number of subscribers is MTS-Uzbekistan (former Uzdunrobita and part of Russian Mobile TeleSystems) and it is followed by Beeline (part of Russia's Beeline) and Coscom (originally part of the U.S. MCT Corp., now a subsidiary of the Nordic/Baltic telecommunication company TeliaSonera AB).

As of 1 July 2007, the estimated number of internet users was 1.8 million, according to UzACI.

Environment

Uzbekistan's environmental situation ought to be a major concern among the international community. Decades of questionable Soviet policies in pursuit of greater cotton production have resulted in a catastrophic scenario. The agricultural industry appears to be the main contributor to the pollution and devastation of the air and water in the country.
The Aral Sea disaster is a classic example. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth-largest inland sea on Earth, acting as an influencing factor in the air moisture. Since the 1960s, the decade when the misuse of the Aral Sea water began, it has shrunk to less than 50% of its former area and decreased in volume threefold. Reliable – or even approximate – data have not been collected, stored or provided by any organization or official agency. The numbers of animal deaths and human refugees from the area around the sea can only be guessed at. The question of who is responsible for the crisis – the Soviet scientists and politicians who directed the distribution of water during the 1960s, or the post-Soviet politicians who did not allocate sufficient funding for the building of dams and irrigation systems - remains open.

Due to the virtually insoluble Aral Sea problem, high salinity and contamination of the soil with heavy elements are especially widespread in Karakalpakstan – the region of Uzbekistan adjacent to the Aral Sea. The bulk of the nation's water resources is used for farming, which accounts for nearly 94% of the water usage and contributes to high soil salinity. Heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers for cotton growing further aggravates soil pollution.

Domestic services

The main line Tashkent - Samarkand - Bukhara is served by two express trains named "Registon" and "Sharq": The "Registon" brings you from Tashkent in less than 4 hours to Samarkand and the "Sharq" makes the 600-km-journey Tashkent - Bukhara (with intermediate stop in Samarkand) in about 7,5 hours. A daily overnight train from Tashkent to Bukhara offers the possibility to travel during the night and win one day. Comfortable sleeping cars allow a good sleep. Overnight trains also run from Tashkent and Samarkand to Urgench (3 times weekly) and to Nukus - Kungrad (2 times weekly), so it's also possible to travel to Khiva (30 kilometers from Urgench, taxi/bus available) or to the Aral lake (Moynaq, 70 km from Kungrad) by train.

Languages

The majority of citizens are ethnic Uzbeks and most speak Uzbek as their first language, although many also speak Russian. There are also significant numbers of ethnic Tajiks and Kazakhs in Uzbekistan, primarily speaking their native tongue as a first language. In Samarkand and Bukhara, for instance, one is just as likely to hear Tajik being spoken as Uzbek. Russian is widely spoken especially in the cities. In Tashkent the majority of the population speak Russian and one is just as likely to hear it being spoken on the street as Uzbek.
In the semi-autonomous region of Karalkalpakstan in western Uzbekistan, the ethnic Karalkalpaks speak their own language, which is related to Kazakh. Many Karalkalpaks also speak Russian.
In the cities, more and more people speak English, especially those in the hotel and catering trades.

Cuisine

Osh (Plov) is the national dish. It's made of rice, carrots, onions, and mutton, and you will eat it if you go to Uzbekistan. Each region has its own way of cooking plov, so you should taste it in different places.
Chuchvara - similar to ravioli and stuffed with mutton and onions.
Manti - lamb and onion filled dumpling-like food.
Somsas, which are pastry pockets filled with beef, mutton, pumpkin or potatoes. In spring time "green somsas" are made from so-called "yalpiz" a kind of grass which grows in the mountains and in rural parts of regions. And the amazing thing is people just pick them up for free and make tasty somsas. You can find somsas being cooked and sold on the streets.
Lagman - soup with meat, spices, vegetables and pasta. By right, it should include 50 ingredients.
Shashlik - grilled meat. Usually served only with onions.
Bread - Uzbeks eat lots of bread (in uzbek its called "non"). Round bread is called lepioshka. You can buy it anywhere, while in the bazzar it costs around 400 sum. Samarkand very famous for the bread.

Drinks

There are two national drinks of Uzbekistan: tea and vodka (result of more than a century of Russian domination of the land). Tea is served virtually everywhere: home, office, cafes, etc. If tea is served in the traditional manner, the server will pour tea into a cup from the teapot and then pour the tea back into the teapot. This action is repeated three times. If you are being served tea in an Uzbek home, the host will attempt at all times to make sure your cup is never empty. If the host fails to refill your cup, it probably means that it is time for you to leave. A mind-numbing variety of brands of vodka are available almost everywhere. Although Uzbekistan is predominately Muslim, for the most part the Islam practiced there tends to be more cultural than religious. Vodka ranges from cheap to very cheap, although the quality is questionable. Russian vodka is available in a few shops.
Visitors should consider tap water to be unsafe to drink, and drinking from bottled water is advised.